What is the Future of Publishing? What Publishers Must Do Right Now to Survive in the Era of Self-Publishing

What is the Future of Publishing?

I am often asked about the role and the future that publishing companies will play in the new era of eBooks and online marketing. Obviously, I am a strong advocate for self-publishing. However, publishers can still play a vital role if they are willing to adapt, evolve and envision what they need to do in order to grow with the times.

Some publishers have embraced the ideas I present in this article and are once again heading down a highly profitable path.  The majority have not and are dying a slow death as they continue to charge high fees for services that may be outdated or services that are no longer targeted and unique in the online world where viewers want information immediately and for the exact topic they are searching.

Authors are smart individuals and they have learned that they can often do what publishers are offering without paying fees or giving up rights to their eBook.

What Authors Think
The authors I speak to believe that publishers can better help them with marketing and promoting their printed books. However, when it comes to eBook marketing they are not convinced of any great benefit or advantage in paying for a publishing company to take this on.

This is the challenge for publishers, convincing authors that they have unique ways to promote eBooks or platforms that they own to promote eBooks to a targeted audience. A general reader community is not the ideal way of doing this and Amazon have already bought out the best in doing this in Goodreads.

eBooks and Publishers
A survey of eBookAuthor.com authors also believe that traditional publishers can provide more help with design and editorial services due to their experienced team of industry experts with these specific skills.

However, as a self-published author they view it as a significant advantage that they retain greater creative control and faster speed to market for their eBook.

Books and Publishers
Self-published authors overall believed that they would still earn a higher royalty rate per book with if they did it themselves via POD. They did believe though that they would likely sell more books if they went with a publisher.

So from an author’s perspective, those who were surveyed in this sample believed that publishers are a better option when it came to printed books but did not see any advantage of using a publisher for their eBooks.

If service providers or publishers want to charge authors high fees or take a commission on eBook sales in return for their assistance then they need to show authors what they can do for them that the author can’t already do themselves.

That is, if some publishers are just going to use the same free online marketing tools available to authors then why should an author pay high fees for something they can do themself? This is just one of the challenges publishers are facing when trying to convince authors to take on their services.

How Can Publishers Survive and Succeed in Providing eBook Marketing Services?
Self-publishing has been a game-changer for major publishing houses.  But not in a way they would have wanted. Their entire business model has been flipped upside down as the ‘power’ has shifted to the author who now has many options available to them.

Publishers are now rushing to show authors how they can help them and potentially be the deciding factor in their success. The future of publishers is dependent on capturing the self-published market and showing them how they can deliver marketing services and benefits without the high upfront costs they once charged authors.

Publishers must innovate or they will slowly disappear as newcomers who understand what is required come in and take over their once strongly held market.

Digital marketing is a constantly evolving beast. Each year brings some new and exciting platforms and services to help authors reach their target audience. If you wish to hand over the responsibilities in marketing and promotion to a publisher then that could free you up to focus more on writing.

But at what cost? And why do that if you can access the same online marketing tools that they use? It comes down to making the right decision on an individual basis.  What we promote at eBooks International is ’empowering’ the author to decide what is best for them.

Publishers must make wise decisions with regards to how much money and time they devote to promoting certain eBooks. When there is an author or eBook that is generating a lot of publicity then it is likely to draw the attention of a publisher. For new and undiscovered authors, they are less likely to dump a lot of money into promoting your eBook. This is just business.

As with any business there are cash flow issues and decisions about how best to use money. Also, as you will see from the marketing tools listed in our Author Academy; the digital marketing options are endless and constantly changing. So publishers must also be smart as to which digital marketing techniques they use.

One way publishers can take more control of digital marketing for the ‘masses’ is to create or own the unique platforms that provide the basis for authors to promote their eBooks.

This is how we have succeeded at eBooks International over the years.  We are not dependent on others’ platforms, online stores or ‘influencers’ in niche categories to promote eBooks.  We decided early on to own these platforms, create our own online eBook stores and to become the ‘influencer’ for niche categories. This is evident by viewing our network of online websites.

If publishers owned these ‘user-generated’ platforms, popular category niche sites and marketing tools then they could provide the opportunity for self-published authors to own their own marketing plans and share in the profits at a reasonable price where the author still benefits greatly.

Yes, this would open up a new business model but it is one they must embrace as this is what is going on.

There is a bit of an analogy here as with suppliers and the big supermarkets.  Many suppliers are dependent on the supermarkets to sell their products. The power and pricing control is often with the supermarket.  It is similar for publishers in the online world.

They are too dependent on Amazon and other retailers to determine the success of the eBooks they publish.  Now what if these publishers owned the niche category online stores, the marketing platforms, had exclusive partnerships with the ‘influencers’ in niche categories and controlled the communities where authors and readers live? Yes, to some extent they already do.

Some publishers have tried to set-up their own online communities catering to a mass general audience but with little success. That’s because they try to cater to every reader in every category.  They would have had more success if they established communities for niche interests. How about a community for crime fiction readers?

How about a community for those interested in gardening? How about a community for those who read entrepreneur eBooks? It is the same principal online marketers use by building lists via free newsletters.  Offer something for free to capture a person’s details in an area you know they have an interest in.

Then when you have a product to sell or promote you have a ready and willing targeted audience who will buy your eBook or product.

Learn from Amazon
Amazon saw Goodreads as becoming a major threat so they bought them out to stop them becoming a competitor. Now Amazon has direct access to their target audience of ‘authors’ who will upload their eBooks to Amazon and in return Amazon has greater power by selling more eBooks and forcing readers to buy their Kindle.

A major publisher should have jumped in well before Amazon did and bought Goodreads. Publishers need direct access to writers and authors.

There are still many opportunities for publishers out there if they are willing to look outside of their own walls. Publishers must build their own ‘niche’ networks and stop depending on others who cater to a mass general audience to help promote their authors. This is a costly venture in both time and money.

Also, too many publishers are building out their websites to attract a greater following. This helps, but again they are missing the point in that they need to go where the readers are for niche categories.

Publishers must learn to build a relationship with their target audience then sell. Many publishers have this backwards in that they just want to send potential customers directly to the sales page.

So if a writer can self-publish via Smashwords or upload their eBook directly to Amazon for free where exactly can a publisher help an author? Can it be with marketing and promotion?

If so, how can they do this on a mass scale to niche audiences when they don’t own the platforms and are dependent on spending money to access these promotional platforms and communities?

The publisher that thinks like Amazon will realise that they need to grow by buying smaller niche players to help grow their ability to offer something unique to authors.

Again I will emphasise the point that they must own the platforms, communities, niche websites that attract readers for a specific interest.

eBook Marketing
The key to successfully conducting a marketing campaign is to first identify the target audience for an eBook.  The ‘spray and prey’ approach uses up valuable money and time targeting people who will never buy the eBook.

This is where Google has stayed ahead of the market by allowing advertisers to target their audience through placing ads on appropriate and relevant search pages for key terms. Facebook uses the data they collect so advertising can be more targeted.

An experienced eBook marketer knows that there are hundreds of options available to them. The problem is which tool and technique to use.  This is where knowing the demographics of the ideal customer come into play.

You can narrow down your online digital marketing campaigns to a select few options. Time is the key factor here.  It takes time to write articles, to post online, to engage people in social media and so on. A marketing plan is essential.

My eBook ‘How to Sell More eBooks – Self-publishing Success’ lists numerous techniques and tools. Throughout the eBook I have stressed the importance of not trying to use all techniques, but to conduct your research into your target audience, find out where they live on the internet, and then go meet them there!

It is about getting your message in front of the right person at the right time and providing them with no other option than to buy your eBook.

We teach self-published authors that you do not need to spend a lot of money to reach your target audience. It is more a cost in ‘time.’  It is about learning from those who have already succeeded in eBook marketing and not wasting your time searching the internet for free tips.

It is understanding that sometimes if you do spend money on advertising that it is OK to spend more if the return on investment is there. This comes down to analysing results and knowing exactly what return you are getting.

Again, we teach authors that it can vary for each individual so it is up to the author to decide which option is best for their eBook, their category and the specific wants or needs of their target audience.

eBook Marketing and Publishers
This raises another problem for publishers in that if they invest too much money into new unproven authors are they just throwing money away? Are they just increasing their risk? Again, they should own the platforms where self-published authors live and once an author has been able to develop a significant following and build their author platform then they would reduce their risk by then presenting an offer to the author.

Authors then have the ability to move to a hybrid option. That is, the author may retain rights to their eBook sales and sign a deal for the print rights and let the publisher run with that. Again, publishers need to be more flexible with the contracts they sign. And authors need to also be open to taking on the assistance from a publisher if it is in their best interests. It’s about choice! It’s about adapting to new opportunities.

Basically the point of my views in this article is directed towards publishers and the role they play in the era of self-publishing and digital marketing. In order to survive, publishers need to own the communities and networks where authors live so they can gain access to their target audience.

Secondly, in digital marketing, publishers must own the platforms, blogs, communities, websites and networks where readers for niche categories go so that they can then promote their author’s eBooks directly to their target audience. If publishers can move down this path then they will have greater access to authors and will also be able to leverage their own network of marketing platforms to help their authors sell their eBooks directly to their target audience.

As of now, only Amazon really seems to be owning this model with any success. It is Amazon who is not only controlling the market for authors, through Goodreads or Shelfari; but also niche reading platforms.

Watch out if Amazon again beats publishers in buying these small niche eBook websites thus further controlling the online world of how eBooks are sold and promoted.

The Dilemma and Challenge for Publishers
So, if publishers cannot provide this unique benefit to authors then why do authors need publishers for marketing and promotion? This is exactly what many authors are now asking themselves.

If authors can publish their eBook for free, conduct online marketing for free, get their eBooks distributed to Amazon and other major online stores for free; then are publishers there just for helping with book publishing and general editing services only? The hybrid contract for some of the most notable self-published authors of late could suggest this.

The question for publishers is what can you offer self-published authors that they cannot already do for free?